ST. LOUIS (AP) - In June, doctors told the loved ones of 7-year-old Deniya Irving that she was unlikely to survive the quadruple shooting that claimed the lives of her parents and left her in critical condition.
Some family members announced on Facebook that she had died. Doctors expected to take her organs for transplant, then turn off life support.
Then, there was a flicker of activity on the brain monitor.
On Oct. 8, roughly four months after she was shot in the back of the head, Deniya gripped her cane tightly and walked down the aisle of the Mount Chapel Missionary Baptist Church on her own, with family members and fellow parishioners cheering her on.
She’s suffered severe brain damage, her grandmother told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch , but she’s back at school, in the second grade. One of her favorite things to do is play hide-and-seek with her little sisters. She says she likes the seeking more than the hiding, though. Deniya says she plans to be a witch for Halloween, and a doctor when she grows up.
“I’m grateful, and I’m thankful, and we’re blessed, because she is doing so well,” said her grandmother and primary guardian, Lawanda Griffin. “She’s doing wonderful.”
The close-knit family is still grieving those losses, Griffin said, but finding hope in Deniya’s progress.
“It’s not easy. But we’ve made it through by the grace of God,” Griffin said.
Lt. John Green, who oversees the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s homicide division, became emotional speaking to Deniya on Sunday.
“To see her standing here today is a miracle. Deniya, we thought about you. The department thinks about you,” Green said through tears. “You are a very tough girl. You’re probably tougher than me.”
Green said he sees a lot of violence.
“And to see somebody survive that, a small child, is amazing,” he added.
A St. Louis man, Jerome Leon Buress Jr., 28, has since been charged for the crime after turning himself in to the police in June. He is being held without bail, charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Irving, Garth and Hayes.
Additionally, Buress faces six counts of armed criminal action, two counts of assault, and one count each of shooting a firearm at a motor vehicle and tampering with a witness. St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer granted the state a protective order to file charges identifying that witness only as “secret witness.”
Authorities have not given a motive in the shooting.
Deniya, meanwhile, still has a grueling road ahead. Griffin says immediately after school each day, Deniya heads to occupational, physical or speech therapy. She’s determined to get better, her grandmother said.
“She never wants any help. She wants to do everything herself,” she said.
Mount Chapel Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Ronald M. Fraction Sr. said he hoped people would hear Deniya’s story and be more willing to come forward to help police when they witness violence in the city.
“We have a lot of children who are getting hurt and getting shot for no apparent reason. But we must stop the foolishness,” he said.
Occasionally, he paused in his remarks to point out Deniya’s improvement.
“She’s showing you, she’s moving her arm, she can move her leg a little bit,” he said. And with a toothy grin, Deniya kicked both feet in the air.
It’s a happier ending than Green usually gets to see, but he says Deniya’s case is not one he’ll soon forget.
“It affects you a lot because a child is innocent,” he said. “But she’s a prime example, don’t give up. They were close four times to just calling it, but she’s still here.”
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com
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